Sunday, June 03, 2007

I know what you are, but what am I?

I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago when I was in high school, so I recognized that the Bush Administration was using Soviet-style torture techniques on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as secret prisons throughtout the world.

Reports of U.S. torture techniques also reminded me of a guy I new in Washington state. He trained U.S. Air Force pilots who could possibly be captured by the Soviets to cope with KGB-style interrogation. He was an American specialist in Soviet torture techniques. He seemed an okay guy, very well-read and thoughtful, really into hardcore punk, a bit harder than the rest of us, and he could be very intense. He described his job as fucked up way beyond my ability to imagine. He spent many days playing the KGB interrogator, torturing American pilots. They all inevitably broke, he said. He hated his job.

This article in the Times confirms that the U.S. does indeed use Soviet-style torture and refers to what I'm pretty sure is the Air Force program in which my long ago acquaintance tortured our troops. Yes, it's true. We are not only using Soviet-style torture, we are doing it consciously, by the book. How's that for nauseating absurdity?

Nauseatingly absurd, that's how. Or should be. At least for those of us old enough to remember the Cold War.

Of course a lot of people these days aren't old enough to remember the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 so pretty much everyone born after 1980, 1985 at the latest, did not grow up hearing about how evil the Soviet Union was, in large part due to their use of torture. Today's conservative kids did not spend their formative years being constantly reminded of how good the United States was compared to the Soviet Union, one of the important particulars being that we did not torture our prisoners. These younger folk were not constantly told that torture was morally wrong. Not only morally wrong but ineffective. And not only ineffective, but counterproductive. They were not told that the Soviet Union provided ample proof that torture was stupid on every level save the sadistic.

So the age thing may at least partially explain why the stupid right wing kids can so blithely condone atrocities that the United States stood against for so many years, but what about the older Republicans?

The older dead-end conservatives who still support George W. Bush and every single one of his war crimes are the same people who loudly denounced the Soviet Union for torturing prisoners in secret prisons during the Cold War. How can they forget just about every single principle they in which they believed?

Of course it's only speculation, but I'd guess they never held any real principles. Those 28 percent or so who support the conservative agenda no matter how criminally insane it becomes, are not principled people. They simply believe what they are told to believe. Doesn't matter what it is. Doesn't matter if it changes. Doesn't matter if it's the opposite of what they were told to believe the day before.

Talk about nausea. Since we now know that Bush & company actually are using the Soviet manual on torturing prisoners, what other manuals are they using? A lot of people have sarcastically suggested their playbook is right out of George Orwell's 1984. Perhaps it really is.